Opinion Piece: The Freedom to Pursue Happiness
On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies declared their independence from England, stating that the separation would give the people of the colonies the rights to which the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” would entitle them—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In 2018, as we’ve done every year on July 4th, Independence Day, we celebrated the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. This annual celebration is also a commemoration of our ability to pursue personal happiness.
Afforded the opportunity, are we happy?
Although we count ourselves among the fortunate on our planet in regard to the degree of opportunities we have available to us, we each still continually seek more happiness and a greater sense of freedom in our personal lives. It is because those experiences are often elusive or short-lived that our pursuit of happiness and free self-expression never ends.
Do independence and self-sufficiency guarantee happiness will be achieved? Is it simply an accumulation of personal property and money that will fulfill us—or is it something less material, less subject to circumstance? Does success in marriage, family, home and career guarantee happiness? In the USA, data on depression, anxiety, divorce, disease and lack of career fulfillment seems to indicate otherwise. An often quoted 2017 British National Health Service survey showed that women are unhappier than men for almost their entire lives.
Women and depression
While all Americans in principle have the liberty that allows for the pursuit of happiness, women struggle to fulfill this goal. Research shows that depression is twice as likely in women than in men. Approximately 11 percent of women in America are taking antidepressants and one out of three doctor’s visits by women involves an antidepressant prescription.
Aside from hormonal causes, depression in women is also known to arise from inequalities in society, most evidently in the workplace. Ironically, it is sometimes the stress of our daily life and the ever-increasing fast pace required to pursue happiness that seem to be getting in the way of the life we aspire to live. Accumulated stress in the nervous system clouds and restricts our awareness and keeps us from being relaxed, fulfilled and happy. The stress and fatigue that can result from trying to maintain both a career and family can endanger both.
A 2010 study led by researchers at University of California Los Angeles shows that depressive symptoms decreased by almost 50% over a 12-month period among people practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. An earlier study published in the Journal of Instructional Psychology found that university students who learned the TM technique showed decreased depression after three months practice, in contrast to students who did not learn Transcendental Meditation. The TM technique does not merely help manage anxieties and frustrations, it effectively dissolves fatigue and stress through deep rest.
When a woman feels helpless, tired, anxious, frustrated or that she is not at the top of her game, she has a resource that will establish her at the pinnacle of her feminine capacity:
The certified teachers of TM for Women offer a way, fully within every girl’s and woman’s reach, to simply, naturally and profoundly access her full potential, now and for all time to come. Our mission in TM for Women is the full empowerment of women as independent, self-sufficient, happy, liberated human beings.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
Unhappiness can also result from too much emphasis on material, temporary joys and neglect of our purest inner life. When we are subjected emotionally to the changing tides of time we may feel anxiety. Sometimes change brings feelings of loss and we may feel personally diminished by those changes. The realization of a woman’s full potential means she is able to live life completely, unencumbered by fear and stress. She would be beyond anxiety, beyond social dictates, beyond the whims of a material ever-changing world.
During the TM technique, the mind settles effortlessly into the deepest level of our self— an experience beyond thought at the most settled state of awareness, a reservoir of bliss. TM provides direct experience of this expansive consciousness, satisfying the ceaseless quest for happiness and infusing joy into all our perceptions. At the least active level of our awareness, the mind is expansive and free from the limitations of self-doubt, stress and fatigue. Gaining power, self-sufficiency and even invincibility in a permanent way, despite the tides of change, comes only from this direct experience of our deepest nature.
Maharishi, the founder of the TM program, said, “Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things toward you.”
We can be confident that the role we play in life, whether we are a career woman or a stay-at-home mom, is to be creative, nourishing and unifying. If we learn to regularly transcend deep within ourselves to tap into our most profound resources, then we can know and radiate a lasting joy.
Unshakeable happiness and the natural tendency of life
Meanwhile, every July we remind ourselves, celebrate, and congratulate each other on the outstanding fact that we have the freedom to pursue fulfillment in our lives. And yet by the end of every July, nothing seems to have changed. Many people are still unhappy or depressed. Many others actually might be happy but are continually pursuing further happiness. It seems that even with an abatement of stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and other imbalances that have plagued us, we find ourselves wanting something more. When we have finally achieved that great job and the type of family we desired and a lovely home then we suspect that we need a new car. Or we need to refurnish our living room. Or we need to go on a more exciting vacation. We will be just a little happier if….
The mind perpetually seeks great happiness and won’t be satisfied until it achieves permanent happiness.
It seems that the most natural tendency in our life is to continue to pursue more. I believe that poetry, religion, the study of physics and our own intuition sometimes give us a hint as to why:
Inherently—at the deepest level of our being—we are infinite in nature and will never be satisfied until we experience that limitlessness concretely in our daily lives. So we pursue fulfillment through our five senses, our intellect, our relationships and our actions—but we will never achieve it that way. Infinitude can only be achieved by realizing ourselves as the immeasureable being we are—with no lack, no boundary, nothing missing or needed.This experience would be akin to being an unbounded ocean, in which all our myriad achievements and acquisitions and smaller fulfillments will be like a lighthearted play in our own waves. It is easy to assume that our innate natural tendency to have more and be more will never be satisfied, and we will never be truly and completely fulfilled, without this direct experience.
Having celebrated the best intentions of our nation’s constitution this year, TM for Women is happy to offer every girl and woman the fulfillment of those intentions in the most powerful, natural way—fulfillment that might have been imagined but was not within the capacity of the founders and generations of lawmakers to grant. We are happy to be in a position to offer this simple natural method of Transcendental Meditation to uplift women beyond the capriciousness of circumstance to their rightful fulfillment in freedom and happiness.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA